BRASELTON, Ga. — Through the first three rounds of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season, three Daytona Prototype teams have established themselves as early championship favorites. Each with one win this season, these three teams – separated by a mere five points – represent the three winningest organizations in DP class history.
In one corner, the defending champions — Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. With a win from the pole in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas established themselves early on as title favorites. Winners of the last three DP championships, Pruett (39 wins) and Rojas (26 wins) are also the winningest drivers in class history. Pruett is the lone five-time Rolex Series champion while Rojas’ four titles are second on the all-time list. Chip Ganassi Racing has won six of the 10 total DP class championships.
In the other corner, the challengers — GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing. Wayne Taylor Racing and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing finished 1-2 last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park and are second and third all-time, respectively, in DP team victories and DP team podium finishes. Through three races GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is two points behind series-leading Chip Ganassi Racing (93-91), while Wayne Taylor Racing sits five points out of the top spot (93-88).
Combined, these three teams have accounted for 78 victories, 192 podiums, 85 poles and nine of the 10 championships in DP history.
“It’s been an incredible fight the last nine years and it looks to be the same again this year,” Pruett said. “You really have to run good, smart races every single race. It’s a serious battle and we’re working really hard to get every single point that we can.”
Coming off of a down year in 2012, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing broke through for victory in the second race of the season at Circuit of The Americas and followed that up with a second-place finish last weekend at Barber. Drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty sit fourth all-time in the DP career wins list with 16 wins apiece, while GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing is third on the DP teams win list (16 wins).
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s last championship came under similar circumstances with a tight points battle down to the wire against their rivals and the team is anticipating another tight battle this season.
“It seems like this is always the case with GAINSCO battling with the Ganassi and Wayne Taylor guys,” said Fogarty, who is also the top qualifier in GRAND-AM history with 25 TOTAL Pole Awards. When we won our first title in 2007 we even went into the finale pretty much tied for first in the championship. We know how close we can be. It’s really what everybody at GAINSCO races for, and we thrive on the close competition with our most intense rivals.”
Wayne Taylor Racing is coming off a three-win season one year ago and is second all-time on the DP wins list with 22 victories. With a win in last weekend’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, the drivers of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP pulled to within five points of Pruett and Rojas. DP newcomer Jordan Taylor picked up his first DP class win in the event, while co-driver Max Angelelli picked up his 22nd career victory, good enough for third all-time in DP. Wayne Taylor Racing is second on the DP team victories list, with 22 victories.
Car owner Wayne Taylor knows to win a championship he will have to beat his longtime rivals, but he also admits that the competition is closer than ever. Other teams in the championship hunt include Starworks Motorsport and Spirit of Daytona, both of which are in the top five in points and have earned podium finishes this season.
“The (No.) 01 has sort of dominated over the years, GAINSCO has been strong, and we’ve been strong. Those are the same teams it’ll come down to this year, if you bank on recent history,” said Taylor. “From our standpoint, we’ve just got to try to be perfect in everything we do, and so far that’s been the case. The cars are so competitive now that it’s really, really difficult to make any huge gains.
“Ultimately, the reason we’re up there at the moment is we’ve gotten more things right than everybody else, in terms of the things we are in total control of. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other cars out there that can beat us on any given weekend.”